The central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that it is seized of the gravity of the matter of forced religious conversions in India and will take appropriate measures to counter it. The Centre’s submissions came in an affidavit filed in its reply to a PIL filed in the Supreme Court by BJP leader Ashwini Upadhyay seeking measures to control forced conversions.
In his petition, Upadhyay sought directions to the central and state governments to take stringent steps to curb forceful religious conversion by intimidation, threats, deceit, gifts and monetary benefits. The PIL also sought directions to the Law Commission of India to prepare a report, besides a Bill by Parliament to control forced conversions.
“The relief sought in the present petition would be taken up in all seriousness by the Union of India and appropriate steps shall be taken as the central government is cognizant of the matter,” the Centre stated in its affidavit, according to Live Law.
The Centre’s affidavit came after the Supreme Court took a serious view of the matter and asked the government to spell out its stand on the matter clearly. In its response, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the right to freedom of religion does not include a fundamental right to convert other people to a particular religion.
“The said right certainly does not include the right to convert an individual through fraud, deception, coercion, allurement or such means,” the MHA’s affidavit read, reported Live Law.
The affidavit also referred to an earlier verdict of the top court which had examined the scope of the words ‘propagate’ and ‘public order’. “The Hon’ble Court held that the word ‘propagate’ does not envisage the right to convert a person rather is in the nature of the positive right to spread one’s religion by exposition of its tenets,” the Centre said while submitting that the verdict had upheld the enactments which sought to control organised, sophisticated large-scale conversions.
The Centre further stated that the enactments are necessary for protecting the rights of vulnerable sections of society including women and economically and socially backward classes, adding that states like Odisha, MP, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, UP, Karnataka and Haryana have already made legislation in this regard.